Bonafide Farm

An evening in Gorham, New Hampshire

October 25th, 2012 § 0

I left Hill Farmstead in the late afternoon via Routes 15 and 2. I stopped for gas around sunset in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and started calling around for a place to stay, searching for pet friendly hotels on my iPhone. This technique had worked pretty well all trip, but in St. Johnsbury I had my first challenge finding a dog-friendly room for the night. But after about 45 minutes of searching and a few calls, I lucked on to the Top Notch Inn, in Gorham, New Hampshire, where Hannah sweetly answered my call.

I set off along Route 2, and one of my regrets of this trip is I hadn’t left enough daylight for this very scenic drive through the White Mountains—the queue at Hill Farmstead and the phone marathon in St. Johnsbury had killed my sunlit hours. Even in the fading light I could tell I was surrounded by spectacular scenery, but this was about the extent of my view: the New Hampshire state line sign. At least I bagged another state!


I pulled in to Gorham grateful to have not hit a moose. I received a warm welcome at Top Notch and after feeding Tucker his dinner, I headed out for mine. The Saalt Pub looked promising, so I swung open their door and took a seat next to a few other couples at the bar.


Immediately owner Steve Jackson, above in the checkered shirt, made me feel at home as he poured a pint of the local brown ale on tap, from Moat Mountain in North Conway, New Hampshire. As I drank I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me, the beautiful Jan, who was eating dinner with her husband David. We talked all through dinner, and Jan—a local who’d lived many places and returned home to Gorham—made me feel welcome. When I told her of my trip, she said, “Wow, you’re really brave.”

This struck me, and it’s been a concept I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since as I’ve journeyed as a single woman with her dog. Never once in coming on this trip has bravery entered my equation, and I’ve entered dodgy Route 81 rest stops with pepper spray in hand, walked in to myriad dark hotel rooms, driven more than a thousand miles in a car that theoretically could have a problem at any time, and hiked by myself to the top of granite mountains where with one misstep I would plummet to the ocean below.

And yet I don’t consider any of these things to be brave. They are just me, living my life. I decided a long time ago that I would rather seek experience than be afraid, and I have made peace with the idea that my number could be up at any moment. I do what I can to be smart, aware, and safe, but beyond that a certain kind of fatalism takes over and I find that awfully freeing.

But back to the trip at hand, where David has just set my dinner before me. A plate of sausage, roasted red peppers and onions, pesto, tapenade, goat cheese and bread—with one beautifully fried lacinato kale leaf. It ended up being my favorite meal of the trip—a combination of all my favorite things done perfectly by David’s wife, the chef Liz Jackson.


Between bites I chatted with Jan and I gave her a few pointers about how to use her new iPhone. After a second beer, I rolled back to the Top Notch feeling nourished and happy. Everyone I’d met in Gorham seemed like good people, and I’d enjoyed wonderful food and drink prepared with attention and care. Not too bad for a last-minute gas station google search. That’s road trip serendipity.


In the morning I checked out of the hotel, but not before Tucker got in a few good barks at the lawn decor, which proved to be pretty much a conglomeration of his nightmares. All through this trip Tucker, when in the car, has barked at big outdoor sculptures and scarecrows. With six days until Halloween, and by passing through the land of moose monuments and chainsaw art, this has meant a pretty predictable stream of commentary from the back seat. It’s interesting to me that the exact same items don’t seem to bother Tuck when he’s outside of the car—we walked right around this moose and scarecrow duo with no fuss—but in the car it’s so predictable that I brace for it.

I grabbed a sandwich and large tea for the road from the White Mountain Cafe and Bookstore, and then hit the highway to finally check off a big prize on my quest to visit all 50 states: Maine!

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